California Firefighters Overwhelmed By Show Of Gratitude

On Saturday morning, Newbury Park residents gathered across from the Wendy Trail entrance to the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area, where fire smoldered from a controlled burn at Wendy Drive and Potrero Road.

Streaming past the group was a parade of trucks brought in to help fight the Springs fire: Ventura County Fire Department, Navy, Poway Fire Department, Chula Vista Fire Department, Viejas Fire Department, San Diego Fire Department, San Miguel Fire Department, Lakeside Fire Department, U.S. park rangers, Los Angeles County Fire Department, the Santa Barbara Fire Department and more

"The fire crews have been amazing," said Lance Conrad, a resident of the Dos Vientos area of Newbury Park, parts of which were evacuated Thursday. Conrad said he was fortunate and didn't have to evacuate, but his neighbors did. He marveled at how little damage has occurred.

"It's just incredible with all the fire around these homes and no one injured," he said. "Just incredible."

Area residents were unanimously thankful, despite the fact that they've been on edge and the quality of air surrounding their homes has been bad for several days.

The community has been showing its support for firefighters ever since the blaze began, both on the fireline and at the command center in Freedom Park in Camarillo.

Firefighter/paramedic Shaun Moffett was among the crews helping to protect threatened homes in Dos Vientos on Thursday.

"The folks were very generous. They opened up their homes," Moffett said. "One lady said, 'I made a casserole. Do you want to come in?' "

People have been driving up with offerings of food in Freedom Park every day since the Springs fire began, said Capt. Fernando Herrera of the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.

"They bring in all the goodies, all the sweets, from cookies to cupcakes to burritos," Herrera said.

"Jamba Juice, Sharky's, Jersey Mike's," added Ventura County Fire Department spokesman Mike Lindbery.

Said Nick Schuler, of the department's incident management team: "We appreciate it, but as much as we appreciate it, we prefer they bring it to the evacuation shelters."

Schuler said that sometimes a firefighter will say in a TV interview that he or she hasn't had anything to eat, and people will misunderstand that to mean that he or she has no food when in fact it's just that there hasn't been time to eat.

"Somebody gets on Facebook and put this huge thing together and we've literally had entire communities dropping off all this food, and we don't want it to go to waste," Schuler said. "We appreciate it, though."

Rows of steaks were cooking on industrial-size grills Saturday evening next to a stack of coolers containing water and Gatorade as Schuler assured well-wishers that the firefighters are well taken care of.

"We get paid to do a job, and we do it the best that we can," Herrera said. "But when you hear that from the public, and they thank you or reward you, it really touches you." ___

(c)2013 Ventura County Star (Camarillo, Calif.)

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Wildfire Burns In Southern California